De la cibernética a la nueva ciencia cognitiva

portadaThe official magazine of the Mexican Academy of Science, Ciencia, has just published a special issue on Norbert Wiener and the origins of cybernetics.

I was invited to contribute an article based on my research regarding the relationship between cybernetics and the new cognitive science.

Title and abstract are as follows:

De la cibernética a la nueva ciencia cognitiva

Tom Froese

El cibernético mexicano Rosenblueth y sus colegas Wiener y Bigelow argumentaban que el comportamiento dirigido a metas puede ser explicado por la retroalimentación negativa. Esta propuesta revolucionaria implicaba que nuestra experiencia al actuar intencionadamente podía hacerse compatible con una visión del mundo estrictamente científica, en la cual la naturaleza física no sigue ningún propósito. Años después, Wiener fundaría la cibernética bajo el principio de autogobierno, por ejemplo, con el uso de “bucles” de retroalimentación negativa para el control de máquinas. Sin embargo, los seres vivos no sólo son autogobernantes, sino que también, a través del metabolismo, son individuos físicamente autoproductivos. Esto es de importancia para el surgimiento de una nueva ciencia cognitiva que fundamenta el sentido de la existencia en el cuerpo biológico y, por lo tanto, en la mortalidad.

Upcoming tour of seminars in Japan

Thanks to the kind invitation of Prof. Shigeru Taguchi I will spend a week in Japan giving seminars at various institutions. The current schedule looks as follows:

  • Monday, Feb. 1: seminar on enactivism, biology of cognition, and predictive processing to be held at the Faculty of Philosophy and Cultural Sciences, Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University
  • Tuesday, Feb. 2: seminar on the study of social interaction at the Laboratory of Autonomous Systems Engineering, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3: seminar on consciousness, the hypothesis of direct perception, and the problem of other minds, also at the Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University
  • Friday, Feb. 5: mini-workshop on the origins of the individual and a seminar on the implications of a movement-first approach to the origins of life and the genetic system, both to be held at the Earth-Life Science Institute of the Tokyo Institute of Technology

I am looking forward to seeing Sapporo and Tokyo again soon!

81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology

Teotihuacan-style_incense_burner_depicting_a_ruler_and_his_court,_Maya,_Early_Classic_Period,_250-600_AD,_ceramic_-_Royal_Ontario_Museum_-_DSC04482This year’s Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) will take place April 6-10, in Orlando, Florida.

I will present a continuation of my ongoing project to model the collective political organization of ancient Teotihuacan in collaboration with archaeologist Linda Manzanilla.

Our contribution was invited to take place in a special session: “The Rise and Decline of Teotihuacan: Urbanism, Daily Life, and Regional Relations through Time”.

The title and abstract are as follows:

A network theoretical analysis of the emergence of co-rulership in ancient Teotihuacan, Central Mexico

Tom Froese and Linda R. Manzanilla

The political organization of Teotihuacan continues to be unknown. While some researchers see evidence for a powerful centralized hierarchy, others argue for a more collective form of government. We created an abstract computer model of hypothetical social relations among neighborhood-level representatives to show that such a distributed political network could in principle have been sufficient for globally optimal decision making, as long as there are community rituals and sections of the city are not too independent (Froese, Gershenson and Manzanilla 2014). These conditions were most likely satisfied during the early periods of the city. However, there is evidence that during the final stages some neighborhood centers become more isolated and independent, and the city as a whole became organized into four districts. Our model suggests that such social fractioning would have undermined a purely horizontally organized collective government. But Manzanilla has hypothesized that four co-rulers governed the city at the district level during this period. We therefore introduced this hierarchical level into our model to verify if such a mixed organization could have addressed some of the issues associated with a fractioning of the underlying social system. We discuss our modeling results in the context of archeological evidence.

Seminars on complexity and economics

FLYER TOM FROESE GUANAJUATOFollowing on from my model of the collective government of ancient Teotihuacan, I was invited by Dr. Pavel Kuchar from the University of Guanajuato in Mexico to give two seminars.

The first seminar is directed at a highly interdisciplinary audience interested in learning about the applications of complex systems research in various scientific fields (see the workshop poster to the right).

The second seminar is targeted at economists and sociologists. The aim is to discuss how recent studies of interaction dynamics might help to integrate the traditional micro and macro scales of social system research.

Book presentation of “Making sense of non-sense”

PRESENTACION DE LIBROWe finally organized a meeting to present the edited book “Enactive Cognition at the Edge of Sense-Making: Making Sense of Non-Sense“.

When: 12:00, Nov. 26, 2015
Where: Auditorio César Carrizales, UAEM campus, Cuernavaca, Mexico

We will have one editor (Tom Froese), two authors (Juan Gonzalez and Dobromir Dotov), and several commentators (José Luis Díaz and others) presenting their views.

Attendees will be able to take advantage of a special discount to order their copy of the book from Palgrave Macmillan.

Seminar: The role of ritualized mind alteration in the origins of the symbolic mind

I have been invited to give a seminar as part of the Biweekly Colloquium of the Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” at the University of Kiel, Germany. The seminar will take place this afternoon, 16:00 – 18:00 Uhr; Building and room LS1 – R.204, Leibnizstrasse 1.

The role of ritualized mind alteration in the origins of the symbolic mind: A new perspective from cognitive science

Tom Froese

The potential roles of altered states of consciousness and hallucinations for the early stages of human prehistory have been hotly debated. Recently, this debate has become caught up in disputes about how such altered states could have been induced and what kind of hallucinations might have been experienced. In this article I first sidestep these issues in order to return to the big question of why we might expect such states and experiences to have been important in the first place. I draw on ongoing developments in the cognitive sciences to provide several interdependent reasons for hypothesizing that they played an essential role in the origins and evolution of the symbolic human mind. Finally, I show that this hypothesis is unaffected by current disputes about the potential availability of certain psychoactive substances in prehistoric Africa and Europe.

Selected reading material:

Froese, T. (2013). Altered states and the prehistoric ritualization of the modern human mind. In C. Adams et al. (Eds.), Breaking Convention: Essays on Psychedelic Consciousness (pp. 10-21). London: Strange Attractor Press

Froese, T. (2015). The ritualised mind alteration hypothesis of the origins and evolution of the symbolic human mind. Rock Art Research, 32(1), 90-97

Froese, T., Woodward, A., & Ikegami, T. (2013). Turing instabilities in biology, culture, and consciousness? On the enactive origins of symbolic material culture. Adaptive Behavior, 21(3), 199-214

The attentive brain, the deluded brain – what is reality?

AFFICHE_Reality_11_2015_V7_Oct_3Next week there will be a conference entitled “The attentive brain, the deluded brain – what is reality?” taking place from Nov. 4-7 in Mittelwihr, France.

The organizers encourage attendants to think out of the box and discover new horizons at the cross-roads of science and meditation.

I have been invited as a keynote speaker and workshop contributor. The title and abstract of my main contribution are as follows:

How isolated are we really? Toward a science of being-with others

Tom Froese

Traditional cognitive science has approached the phenomenon of understanding others in terms of a Theory of Mind framework. This framework was originally proposed to overcome the problems raised by a pair of seemingly self-evident assumptions: 1) mind is a property of an isolated brain, 2) a person’s mind, like their brain, is therefore completely hidden from the perceptual perspective of others. If so, then any scientific theory of social understanding must explain how one individual’s internal mechanism can infer meaning from another individual’s meaningless external physical movements. I will try to demonstrate that this is a misguided explanatory project for several reasons. When we interact with others we normally do not perceive them as mindless zombies, nor is our mind isolated from them. Therefore, what is needed is a scientific theory that can do justice to the perceptual presence of others and our mental interconnectedness.

Review of “Contemporary Sensorimotor Theory”

ContemporarySensorimotorTheoryAs part of the Frontiers in Robotics and AI research topic “Re-enacting sensorimotor experience for cognition” we published a book review on this topic.

Book review: Contemporary sensorimotor theory

Tom Froese and Franklenin Sierra

Consciousness, with its irreducible subjective character, was almost exclusively a philosophical topic until relatively recently. Today, however, the problem of explaining the felt quality of experience has also become relevant to science and engineering, including robotics and AI: “What would we have to build into a robot so that it really felt the touch of a finger, the redness of red, or the hurt of a pain?” (O’Regan, 2014, p. 23). Yet a practical response still requires an adequate theory of consciousness, which brings us back to the hard problem: how can we account, from a scientific point of view, for the phenomenological character of experience? Over a decade ago, O’Regan and Noë (2001) proposed a new approach to these questions, the so-called sensorimotor approach to perceptual experience. How far has this approach come and what are its outstanding challenges? The volume Contemporary Sensorimotor Theory, edited by Bishop and Martin, takes stock of the current state of the field.

Keynote at “The sensorimotor foundations of social cognition”

I have been invited as a keynote speaker to an autumn school on “The sensorimotor foundations of social cognition” organized by the Horizon 2020 project Socializing sensorimotor contingencies (socSMCs).

The event will take place in Boltenhagen by the Baltic Sea, Germany, October 11-17, 2015. My title and abstract are as follows:

Enactive and phenomenological approaches to social cognition

Tom Froese

One of the most central and also controversial claims of the enactive approach is that embodied social interaction is constitutive of social cognition. Evolutionary robotics modeling and dynamical systems theory demonstrate that at least in principle there is nothing mysterious about this claim. But can it also be verified experimentally? The most promising results so far are based on the “perceptual crossing” paradigm, in which pairs of participants interact haptically in real-time via a minimalist human-computer interface. They try to locate each other in the virtual space while avoiding distractor objects. It has repeatedly been shown that individuals’ actions become interactively self-organized in a way that collectively enhances task success. However, until recently there was no evidence that this sensorimotor self-organization was also experienced from the point of view of the participants, thereby calling into question whether it constitutively affected their social cognition. I will present the latest studies in which an accompanying phenomenology of intersubjectivity was clearly reported and quantified, thereby enabling us to identify the specific pattern of sensorimotor coupling underlying the emergence of a consciously shared moment of experience. This is some of the first evidence supporting the concept of a genuine and irreducible second-person perspective that is mutually enacted via joint actions. Intriguingly, the process of its emergence shares similarities with the first stages that are hypothesized to occur during the development of social awareness in pre-verbal infants.

Keynote on identity, alterity and language

socioligia2The Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City is holding an international meeting on the topic “La otredad en sociedades transculturales: Identidad, Alteridad y Languaje“, September 23-25, 2015.

I have been invited as a keynote speaker to present my recent research. The title of my talk is “La ciencia cognitiva de la identidad y alteridad: Teorías, Modelos y Experimentos”.

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